Antoine Dupont: French ‘phantom’ of the Rugby World Cup returns

Antoine Dupont: French 'phantom' of the Rugby World Cup returns

With a nod to the Andrew Lloyd Webber stage show, it is Frenchman Antoine Dupont who is the leading man who has returned to the main stage, weeks after succumbing to a nasty broken cheekbone.

Now given permission to rejoin training, it is assumed he will play with a face protector; giving him the similar appearance to the Phantom character from the long running show. So, his amazing rise from the footlights to stand again boldly in the limelight [of hosting a Rugby World Cup].

World Rugby has released few details of how France Rugby and the game breaker Antonie Dupont convinced the authorities that he has overcome any ‘apparent symptoms’ of a broken bone, to show how any facial protection equipment might be introduced; and importantly, his ability to withstand contact training. Bruno Boussagol, Medical Director for Fédération Française de Rugby (FFR), spoke acutely on the French player’s status.

“The option of wearing a helmet was indeed discussed. We’re working on it. He has received and has tested this kind of protection equipment. There are two key points: his vision and hearing shouldn’t be affected. These two parameters need to be tested in real conditions”, said Boussagol. On Antoine Dupont’s involvement ahead of the quarter-final versus South Africa, he gave a frank explanation.

“Antoine had a visit with the surgeon this morning (Monday). He got the green light. He’s going to be back to rugby training this afternoon. We will keep on working with him to make sure that he’s in the best position before the head coach makes his decisions (on the team selection). He had some contact with tackle pads with the fitness staff. Now he’s going to be back to normal training.”

Antoine Dupont: French ‘phantom’ of the Rugby World Cup returns

Looking upward is possibly how this decision-making might be seen as. Hopeful that nothing further occurs to endanger the player’s current health or welfare, including what might occur to increase any risk of causing longer-lasting facial or medical injuries that continue past the end of the Rugby World Cup (RWC) because there is every risk. Ask any person who suffered a high-grade cheek contusion or bruising – it lasts for a considerable time.

So from the viewpoint of stakeholders, a player of Dupont’s stature and importance to the game as a whole, you could not risk him leaving the field in a pinnacle match like the semi-final or even a Cup final. The impact on the legitimacy of World Rugby’s position on player welfare and equity would be undermined. So with the announcement, many imagine CEO Alan Gilpin will make a case that all decisions have been made [first] by FFR. So the main responsibility is in the hands of the host nation.

No matter the risk, if Dupont himself showed his strength of will to pursue the decision and testing, it is both a measure of the man and a lesson in self-effacing behaviour. He would rather put his body on the line for his country and his teammates than sit in the stands idle. Plus, his drive for success is infectious, so his incredible deeds can be the motivation that Les Bleus could take into their pivotal clash against South Africa.

Indeed, that is just step one for Antoine Dupont if he is to star in the epic show on home soil. Maybe it is explainable, why he is so committed in an attempt to return to his side. Probably not to start, more adequately it would be to run out after halftime and to drive his men to stop the current World Champion Springboks in Paris.

Still the biggest question is whether his body can survive the extreme physicality of a red hot RWC quarter-final versus South Africa?

Fitness notwithstanding, a France victory may set up a clash against Ireland or New Zealand, and then a final game to play the winner of the opposite side of the draw. An unknown, who none of the Pool A or B nations have met yet. But can the halfback muster the strength to play in three successive weekends? It may be within his reach – the Stade Toulousain star wants to add an International championship, alongside his professional club career. It will be the pinnacle jewel in his already illustrious rugby crown.

Few will have wished the injury upon him [Namibia’s Johan Deysel included] yet if he can assert his command of the rugby ball over his own injury, than the folklore surrounding the French skipper, will only grow evermore. Allez!

2023 Rugby World Cup knockout phase:

Saturday, October 14: Ireland v New Zealand | Wales v Argentina

Sunday, October 15: France v South Africa | England v Fiji


“Main photo credit FFR Rugby Union webpage